What do you know about our company?

This is another genuinely important question, where the employer, understandably, wants to know whether the candidates have any idea of the business, its priorities and needs.

Note: When targeting specific employers, this question is also about information you really must have to effectively approach an employer. It's essential information.

The question has a tendency to identify the clueless pretty fast. A bad answer can only be made up for by a spectacular performance on the other questions. A good answer, however, can be very positive indeed, particularly if it comes to a choice between someone who couldn't be bothered to research the business and someone who did.

There are very practical reasons for this question:

Employers do not need ignoramuses.

Nor do the other employees.

In many businesses, a real understanding of the nature of the business itself and its issues is very important. That knowledge covers the whole spectrum of business operations.

All jobs have priorities, important to them on a daily basis. All businesses have special characteristics and particular needs. They need people who understand those things without having to be told. They prefer people who'll take the time to find out these very basic things, too.

Actually it's strange that so many people lose track of the fact it's worth knowing a bit about a potential employer in their own interests. Basic things like Is this a good company to work for, or Are they doing good business and not about to go broke, are pretty relevant.

It's easier to find out about bigger organizations than small businesses, but you can learn quite a bit from the information that all businesses produce:

  • Most businesses have web sites, so there's some useful basic info, sometimes all you need.
  • If they don't have a web site, they will advertise locally, at least.
  • Nearly all established businesses are part of the local Chamber of Commerce.
  • Most employers have some business history, and you can find that out, and have some idea of how they've grown.
  • You can get sales figures and lots of other data from annual reports, as well as other info which will tell you how the business is doing.

Which, of course, also means that getting this information isn't hard, and the employer isn't asking for miracles when asking this question. The average primary school kid could be taught how to find that information in about half an hour.

So you're also being warned that this isn't a trivial question. If you've ever done an interview where you've been told You'll be expected to hit the ground running, you'll know why.

They're not kidding. Your level of knowledge about the business is an essential part of the job. Some jobs simply cannot be done by people with insufficient basic knowledge.

Your answer must include:

  • I checked out your website / annual report / newspaper articles / press releases. This is sourcing your information so they know what you've been looking at and where and when you've got your information. Any manager will know all this stuff, and know whether it's current information or not.
  • I know the company is now… ( describe current company operations and initiatives.) This indicates you understand the operational issues.
  • I know you have some big clients / a lot of local business / international contracts. Meaning you do understand the business role and the customer base.
  • I've discovered the business has a good reputation for entry level people and building careers in the industry, because… (This is the case with reputable employers, no harm in mentioning it.)

You may or may not wish to bring up any topical matters. If the company has been in the news recently, you can mention that you're aware of the situation, or even that the news article attracted your attention to the company.

You can add technical details in relation to some of these points, like trade issues, but be tactful and discreet, don't commit to any particular position, because you may find yourself disagreeing with the employer's viewpoint. Done properly, all you need to show is that you understand those issues.

These basic points mean you have done your homework, you do know the fundamentals of the business, you know what the employer is talking about.

The big positive about this question is that you can show off your knowledge. Some applicants clam up, and don't go beyond absolute basics, which simply reduces their input.